domenica 12 novembre 2017

Scandinavian Files - 39 days in the North

Sandviksberget (NOR). Photo Stefan Kuerzi

The Journey

More than three years have passed since my last visit in Scandinavia. Once again, the suggestive nature and the beautiful granite rocks of the North made me unable to resist at their call. After some long planning days, I decided to make a trip back leaving home by the end of August.
This time I chose an alternative way to go: no flights,  no rental cars and no pad-sizes restrictions from inefficient and opportunist low cost companies. The first time I flew to Sweden, Rayanair really kicked my ass with all of those bag regulations which are never really clear and fixed. I thought I would have been way more flexible driving my own car: I could move everywhere I wanted and I was free to carry all the pads I needed.
The fact to drive a car towards such a far and savage place, can easily delete the major impact that you would have dropping out of a plane instead. During the long journey of 4 days, I had time to adapt myself to the different light and to cooler air.
The impact has been smoothed thanks to the long drive and, once I got there, despite the atmosphere was wild and a bit spooky, I was still in my comfort zone.
Apart from a silly mistake in Oslo, I didn’t miss any directions in my route and I was glad to have made the entire journey by using just an atlas and my personal paper notebook
For the entire length of the drive, I was lost inside my head and sunk into a deep sense of solitude.
This feeling of loneliness made this journey shorter and it featured my drive with a loose flow of thoughts.
Besides a handful of trite words with the owners of the guest houses, I haven’t met any other people on my way and I was only led by the melodic sound of the latest album of the Children of Bodom, which have been looped for almost 35 hours of drive.

My goals

The preview of every trip starts way before than the trip itself. I began to realize I want to go to Norway several years ago, but only at the beginning of the last Summer I saw the first window opportunity.
My priority was to check Vingsand, a little fishermen’s helmet near the village of Osen, located three hours North of Trondheim.
My summertime has been filled up with several doubts, painful injuries and other troubles which made me shaky about my choice. But then, in August, I finally got a clear idea: I wanted to go there to do Shantaram, the famous and infamous strength-endurance testpiece put up by Bernd Zangerl.
The name of Shataram is probably correlated to the homonymous novel written by Gregory David Roberts which I still have to read.
Besides Shataram, I saw other bouldering pictures from Vingsand, but they were not really inspiring to be honest. This made my Norway trip seem like a solo-mission to climb a single boulder problem: it was of course a risky deal, but I believed it was worthy to try.
I knew I needed a good dose of patience: big efforts were for sure necessary to climb it and having a wide dose of time could help me to deal with the weather changing and the decadence of my skin.
It was more than one year than I didn’t try something that hard. So the fact to have just a big aim in my mind made me more relaxed to avoid the trap of the “to-do” madness, which makes you feel in rush to climb things. 
Despite Shantaram was at the top of the list and I was open to invest a lot of time in it, I didn’t want to run out of my 20-days stay. I thought 20 days would have been enough, considering all the downs of the weather, the skin managing and the resting time. If I would fail, I could always come back. 
After this window of time, I really cared to move towards Helsinki for my second goal: The world classic Nalle Hukkataival’s The Globalist.
Then, before coming back home, I wanted to stop in Vastervik with Rudy to check all the new lines put up by the myth and good friend of mine Stefan Rasmussen.

Ups and Downs

- Diamanten

The first UP regards Diamanten, a majestic granite diamond put up by Nalle Hukkataival in 2011.
I can’t hide I was really doubtful about this one: I wasn’t sure if my weak finger would have borne the traumatic effort on the key-crimp. That hold seemed to be way too awkward and painful to be used on such a steep angle. But I was wrong
The first day, half part of the line was soaking wet, but the hard sequence was dry enough to pull.
I was extremely excited to crimp such a nasty crimp without feeling any pain after 6 month of suffering. That was actually one of the best feelings I had during the whole trip.
Everything was bright and promising as I hoped.
I sent Diamanten on my second day.

Diamanten, Vingasand (NOR). Photo Stefan Kuerzi

- Shantaram

Shataram obviously involved much more time and fatigue to be achieved.
Three sessions on it were long, tough, complex and very intensive for my muscles. But above all, during most of the time I faced an apocalyptic wind and some harsh climate.
The third day the weather was on my side, presenting sunny vibes and a clear sky: we could finally open our pads without any keepers.
To be honest I thought it was too perfect: It’s hard when you wake up in such a crispy day, but then you know you are still in the working process. So, considering how rare it was to find that friction, I desired to have that weather for my sending day.
I mean, I was almost sure it was going to be another simple day in the office working on sequences. But, once again, I misunderstood my body’ signs.
For several reasons my feelings switched to the positive side go after go. At some point, I found a really interesting and smart beta for  the middle part: Instead of climbing that part normally, I focused myself in running away as quick as possible, keeping energies for the sequences where I needed more precision and a longer hanging time. Since then, everything started to work in a smoother way.
This beta made me save skin quality, energies and core. Finally, noting this progress, I got an ultra mental boost which replaced my physically energy drop.
When I set up for the last go I knew it would have been the last shot of the day. And, that was probably the last day with that perfect friction.
In my imagination, the window opportunity was very open before pulling. Somehow I passed through that window and I reached the top!

Shantaram, Ramsoy (NOR). Photo Stefan Kuerzi

- King Size

Unless you watched “The Northern beast”, it is hard that you can bear King Size in your mind.
King Size is a 50 degrees overhanging face, features by a brown/red rock which goes up for 11 meters. Fortunately to me, the line cut it off towards left at 8/9 meters high. The prominence of the wall is also amplified by the empty and large landing and by the thin and raised hillside plateau on which it leans on.
By the way, from that spot, you have a wide view on the fjords bay and you can admire some of the best sunsets in Osen.
For some reasons, I didn’t manage to check King Size until the end of the trip. When I woke up one of the last mornings, the forecast changed dramatically and that was going to be my unique and last opportunity to do it.
The second thing I found out later was that my rope was too short to bind it around a solid tree. So I had to use two really tiny birches, planted into a thick, but not safe,  layer of moss.
The moment of doing the anchor is usually filled up with dark feelings and scary images. Few days before, some local climbers asked me if it was worthy to die for King Size. Obviously I said yes. Who is going to die falling from an highball??
But then, while I was making the anchor around those two skinny birches, some spooky thoughts began to plague my mind. How could the top rope checking be actually scarier than the climbing itself? It felt ridiculous, but warring at the same time.
So I quickly removed the harness and I took care about the situation: I put a little pad right at the bottom of the vertical line of the rope. Nothing really changed, but that was enough to make me do the blind faith step into the unaware.
Not only the top rope session went safely, but even the ground up ascent was a success!

King Size, Vingsand (NOR)

- The Globalist

What made The Globalist so special to me, was not only the boulder itself, but the time which passed by since the first time I realazied I wanted to do it.
Globalist was one of my teenager’s dreams and it took me a bit to make it real.
I have been often wondering how the rock would have been, how the textures would have felt and how beautiful the place around would have looked like.
The magical part came when I could finally check it out in reality.
I think that my solo approach towards Globalist was probably even more special and emotional than the climbing itself.

The Globalist, Sipoo (FIN)

- The Down

Seldom a long trip is only made by bright moments. It is highly guaranteed that few drops might happen at some point and you have to reckon them. I am not negative, but I think this just a balanced rule of life.
But be honest, I didn’t expected to get seriously injured once again after the troubles I had in the last year.
Trying one of the most legendary and hardest Scandinavia’s boulders, Circus Elephant Syndrome, I heard three noisy pops all the way from my back until the top of my elbow. This happened on the second move of the problem, where the body position is even too weird to be described with words.

To cut the story short, I couldn’t climb anymore after that.
After 5 weeks of rest, I started to hang a little bit and now it is slowly improving day by day with little steps. But it is still impossible to lock my arm.
These feedbacks make me feel it will take a while to be over, so I need to arm myself with patience and positive vibes to heal it up.
The RMI doesn’t show any big issue in my muscles, labrums, joints, tendons or ligaments, except for a little triceps tear which definitively doesn’t justify the pops I heard and the pain I had for weeks.
Doctors and physiotherapists say it could deal of a multiple nerve tear.
Does any of you have any similar problems while climbing?
If yes, some tips would be more than appreciated.

After the Pop

After the injury, all the climbing games were definitively close. I have been browsing around for one day until when the boredom started to kill me.
I was lucky to be Helsinki. Despite I had a short stay in the city, my time was enough to realize I was in a great place with awesome people.
So it was time to do different activities and fill up the rest of my weekly trip.
I have been out with Ville and Thomas, two good friends of mine who filmed my climbs in the first three days.
We decided to make a little clip about what happened, so we kept filming doing some interviews and making some visits: we checked out the classic sector of Myllis and we also went to see the myth of the Lappnor project.
One day, they carried me to the Bodom lake. This lake has a dark and grim story behind: In the summer of 1960, three teenagers had been killed by an unknown slayer while they were camping on the lake’ shores. Ville knew the exact and precise spot where the tragedy took place and I took a sit there for a while.
Trip ended on a sunny and warm Sunday among the best Helsinki’s tourist attractions.

SIlent night, Bodom Night. Photo Ville Kurru

Final chapter

Despite the pain was persisting like hell, I didn’t want to bail my brother at last for the Vastervik trip.
In Vastervik I had my first climbing trip after my high school time and it is where my traveling era has begun in 2013.
The memories were definitively bittersweet: sometimes they were painful like needles, other days they felt lighter and easier to face. While other times I enjoyed to think about those days.
We hooked up with Stefan Rasmussen who showed us all the new stuff.
Many boulders popped out of the moss since my last visit and it was hard to keep my hands into the pockets, but at least the tour gave me a high dose of motivation to come back soon.
Rudy was raging like a machine and he had a lot of time to dedicate at his climbing. I envied him a lot, but I was happy to see him serene on the rock after the troubles he faced in the last years.
Being injured, I had not many tasks to do and I tried to shoot him a bit. Here below you find a couple of our outcomes.

Trip ended at the beginning of October and Scandinavia became one of my top destinations ever.
The first goals are already set up for the next time: No injury first. Then, Circus Elephant Syndrome.

Rudy climbing in Fruberget (SWE)

Rudy climbing in Marstrand (SWE)

lunedì 10 aprile 2017

Wear and tear in the bouldering Mecca

Immaculate and untouched sandstone
The last three weeks here in Fontainebleau haven’t been only golden moments, good climbing and pain au chocolat. For the first time I really felt that some reflections about the future of bouldering and the current state of the holds should be needed. 

I have been in the climbing scene since 14 years now, and almost 10 in the rock climbing world. I also grew up in a gym like wide part of the new generation of kids does nowadays. I must admit I haven’t been always perfect, pure and 100 % ethically clean in what I have climbed so far. I made several mistakes during the past and, still now, I am often learning new shades about this topic, trying to go deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the good approach that a rock climber needs. Hard to admit, but learning the unwritten laws of bouldering might take a while. Ethics and respect are probably values you acquire during a relatively long path. The learning process happens if you are flexible to catch small details and if you are lucky enough to meet the few climbers who still put passion and respect into the outdoor bouldering.

All of this is hard to match by these days, especially considering that even the most media climbers aren’t often the most clean. In fact, most of the celebrities can’t be taken as examples under this side. 10 years ago we were definitively living in a different community, and I felt blessed to have know the last wave of this way of living bouldering. It was somehow harder and less comfortable, but definitively richer with dreams, magic and real values.

Rocks aren’t stationary as we imagine. They changed from the smallest details to the biggest chunk. Our short lives hide us the truth that the game we are playing is just a matter of time. Everything we climb was dust and it will return to dust in the future. This is the nature we belong to.

But, dramatically, even in a shorter period of time, boulders can be altered. And certainly not only for natural reasons.

Having put up a decent numbers of lines, I could note how the holds change during the flow of the seasons and how the holds can alter ascent after ascent. Even if it deals of micro details, it’s rare that we can repeat the problem in the exact and same state as the first ascentionist did. There are plenty of examples around, especially on soft kinds of rock like sandstone or limestone. Boulders change for natural reasons in long terms of time and for human being impact in a shorter period of time. We can definitively manage our use, limiting the ruin of the rock. So, we are somehow responsible of all of this deterioration process.

And seeing how bouldering is getting more and more popular by these days, the state of the rock will probably depend more and more on our behavior as the years roll on. We are responsible of the heritage we have and protecting all of this should be our first priority. It should, because apparently it is not what we are actually doing.

I walked through many areas this time here in Font and it was, in some sort of ways, sad and ridiculous to note how some holds currently are. If you would take few steps into the Forest, you can count endless doses of tickmarks left and, most impressive, touching some holds which are not the same anymore. Few times ago climbers who haven’t any ethic didn’t brush the boulders at the end before leaving. Now it seems that they don’t even use a brush for their whole session, complaining about the conditions when they should only need to clean and take care a bit more. Slopers, crimps and jugs are surrounded and covered by a chalky layer which is pretty heinous to remove and it’s getting more and more into a permanent state. And this is going to change completely the nature of the texture.

This is probably due to the quantity of people which is getting into the climbing world, and, more important, to the very low qualities values that these people are bringing into the outdoor world. Hard to say where the source of the issue is and even harder to imagine  a possible solution to stop the loop and restart from the beginning. It seems that the baton of the old Bleausards generations has been somehow lost for unknown reasons.

Bouldering is becoming like business. Business that deals with personal egos, glory and certainty not money for most cases.. I am pretty sure some climbers don’t even like climbing anymore.

Having patience, failing, falling, learning, improving, experiencing, respecting, being humble is all now replaced with illusionary good performances, quick sending time and loads of insta likes. It might be only an opinion of few, but we are getting into a valueless climbing world.

Almost nobody still cares about the only and simple rule we should follow which is the one to impact as less as possible while we do bouldering. We are lucky to practice an activity that only counts an handful of unwritten rules; we are free and nobody catches us with a red card if we get wrong. We just need to preserve our heritage in order to continue to enjoy our level of freedom and to respect  all the other climbers who want to enjoy rock with passion, sacrifices and efforts.

Every of us owns a brush. Use it. Carefully. For your performances, but even more to limited the ruin of the rock we all love.

Tickmark for a foothold on "Digitale" in Bas Cuvier

"Deforestation" in Rocher Du Cassepot

domenica 8 gennaio 2017

2016 - Top 10 Problems

- 10th. "Urban Cowboy", Southern Italy. FA Mauro Calibani

Video Still
-9th. "The X Pinch", Grampians (AUS). FA Jimmy Webb

Photo Giulia Paoletti
-8th. "Ghia", Aosta Valley (ITA). FA

Gabri on "Ghia". Video Still

-7th. "Biotronic", Quantum Field (NZ) FA

Photo Giulia Paoletti
-6th. "Passo Mambo", Southern Italy. FA Mauro Calibani

Photo from my archive
-5th. "Geometrie Non Euclidee", Southern Italy. FA

The day when Marco and I  discovered it!
- 3rd. "King Line", Flock Hill (NZ). FA

Photo Tom Hoyle
- 3rd. "Golden Rule", Grampians (AUS). 2nd asc. - FA Nalle Hukkataival

Photo Charlotte Garden 
- 2nd. "Survival of the Prettiest", Grampians (AUS). 2nd asc. - FA Nalle Hukkataival

Photo Simon Carter
- 1st. "The Big Show", Flock Hill (NZ). FA

Photo Giulia Paoletti